I had thoughts of what I might choose to write about after completing my year of mourning, but all of them felt cheap and empty when the time came. How could I switch to any other subject after dedicating a year to Papa?
On the other hand, I couldn’t continue my project as if my year of mourning hadn’t ended. There’s a point at which passion descends into obsession; a point at which contributing to conversation becomes whoring for attention.
* * *
Throughout my kaddish year, I received support that was beyond precious from friends and family members. My confidence in the validity of my Jewish voice was bolstered by the feedback of rabbis and scholars whom I admire; and its potential value even to non-religious individuals was brought home to me by dear ones, themselves unengaged in Jewish prayer or study.
That year, after I’d published my 27th blog post, my brother Eli inadvertently paid me the greatest of compliments:
“reading your posts also reminds me of dad”
“really? wow. thank you for telling me that.”
Many people suggested that I publish the ‘Skeptic’s kaddish’ as a book, and while I’ve been giving this serious consideration, it… I feel…
Firstly, I don’t feel done with this journey, even with the close of the first chapter. Secondly, my personal kaddish odyssey assumed the format of a blog rather naturally, with all the advantages and disadvantages that offers. How would one include embedded YouTube videos and lists of hypertext in a bound volume, I wonder?
Lastly, my vision for a book includes a section that I’ve only begun working on – an ethical will.
* * *
My friends and family offered their feedback, each from her/his own perspective. Among them, my dear friend Yael offered me commentary through the lens of her professional chaplaincy work with dying clients and their loved ones.
I still recall a pivotal conversation of ours, following that same 27th blog post in which I’d written:
… I am leaving behind something special for future generations in this kaddish series. Somehow, I had not initially considered that… Still, I do like the idea of this as a family memoir…
“Do you know what an ethical will is?”
“Nope; what is it?”
Following her thorough explanation, I felt the need to clarify something I thought she’d said:
“Okay; I understand that the ethical will is used universally by chaplains of all faiths, but did I hear you say that this was originally a Jewish thing?”
“Absolutely. It has its roots in the Torah – read about it.”
So I did.
* * *
There is much for me to write, and not all of it will be written. There are things I won’t get to, and there are things I won’t touch.
However, in honor of my Papa, I intend to follow this basic guiding principle: to write honestly and ethically. That’s not to say that I myself am an especially ethical man, but Papa may have been the most genuine and honorable man that I have ever met.